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Spatial Awareness: A Key to Movement Efficiency and Coordination

Help children develop spatial awareness for improved movement and coordination.

Spatial Awareness: A Key to Movement Efficiency and Coordination

Spatial Awareness

The world can be confusing for children as they discover and learn. However, they begin to understand more about their place within their surroundings over time. Spatial awareness, or the awareness of one’s own body in relation to other people and objects, is an important perceptual motor skill that lays the foundation for overall coordination and movement. This article covers the basics of spatial awareness and includes activity ideas that help foster this essential skill.

What is spatial awareness?

Spatial awareness is knowing where your body exists in space in relation to other people or objects. It keeps us grounded and guides us as we navigate our movements. Developing that awareness as a child is important as they establish things like hand-eye coordination, balance, and motor skills.

Importance of spatial awareness

Understanding where you physically exist in space is a complex skill that can influence daily life. A child simply reaching out to grab something and pulling it toward themselves demonstrates spatial awareness. With spatial awareness, children can follow directions, remember locations, play sports, dance, write, or draw. It also impacts their social skills, informing them how close or far to stand next to another person in various situations. Without spatial awareness, a child will spend much of the day bumping into things instead of navigating their way around obstacles.

Spatial awareness activities

If a child is struggling to hone their spatial awareness, then there are ways to support them in improving it. Activities focusing on utilizing spatial awareness allow them to learn the concept in a controlled environment. Some activities for children to practice spatial awareness are:

  • Describing locations: Choose an item and describe in detail where it’s located from small scale to large scale.
  • Measure distances: In a large area such as a school or a park, count how many steps or paces it takes to get from one point to another.
  • Puzzles: Complete a variety of small-piece jigsaw puzzles.
  • Follow the leader: In a group of about eight to 10 children, have them rotate who the leader is while the rest follow the leader’s steps and body movements.
  • Action songs: Act out songs that describe bodily movements, such as “Heads, shoulders, knees, and toes.”
  • Play cornhole: This is a popular game of throwing bean bags into a small hole.

Other activities to help promote spatial awareness include playing on a jungle gym, participating in an obstacle course, music and movement exercises, playing ball games, and drawing. Give your staff an easy tool to quickly document daily events, activities, and milestones for each child in your program. With brightwheel’s daily activity report feature, you can record learning milestones directly in the app and share real-time updates with families.

young boy climbs on jungle gym in an outside play area as his male teachers crouches down beside him and watches. In the background, there is a wooden fence with a chalkboard hanging. The message 'good afternoon' is written on the chalkboard.


Spatial awareness and perceptual motor skills

Tasks such as crawling or walking only involve motor skills, which are focused on moving the body’s muscles to perform a task. Perceptual motor skills are a bit more complex because they function through the relationship between muscle movement and the senses. Spatial awareness improves perceptual motor skills because understanding your body’s relationship with the space around it helps your eyes send the correct messages for directing how the muscles move. 

Perceptual motor skills aren’t only impacted by spatial awareness and motor skills; they’re also associated with one’s internal clock and consciousness regarding the body. Understanding the relationship between movement and time is temporal awareness, and the relationship between your mind and body is body awareness. Spatial awareness, perceptual motor skills, temporal awareness, and body awareness are all individually important and work together. If a child is struggling with any of them, it could impact the development of the others.

Support children in developing these skills

Spatial awareness is a complex skill that helps us understand where our body is in relation to other things around us and helps us learn how to navigate our environment. As children grow and explore the world around them, they gain more control over their bodies and how to use them. Simple activities that nurture spatial awareness and incorporate concepts of direction and distance will help support your children’s coordination and movement skills.

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